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Texas ISD School Guide
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Writing and Public Speaking

What is Fiction? An Exploration Into the Definition
By:Daria Black

Fiction is an integral part of the human culture. The ability to tell believable lies may be the one thing that defines our species from the hundreds of others we share this world with. What differentiates fiction from nonfiction is that fiction tells the tales of imaginary people, places, situations or a combination of all of the above whereas nonfiction, although often stranger than its counterpart, tells the tales of the real world.

Fiction can be found in all mediums including but not limited to: novels, short stories, movies, television shows, comic books and video games. Generally fiction is considered an avenue of entertainment when, in fact, fiction is much more diverse in it uses. We see it in classrooms where teachers make up an example in order to illustrate a point. Fables and folk tales are used to teach values and life lessons as well as to pass on cultural myths (i.e. The Easter Bunny or The Tooth Fairy).

Propaganda and advertising is often based on fiction which is then used to sway the unwary into parting with their common sense, their money or both. I mean c'mon. Do you really need a Hummer to drive your kids back and forth to soccer practice? Conversely, mythology is the tale of real events that have been blown way out of proportion by time and the passage from storyteller to storyteller. It's like that children's game, Telephone, where a sentence is passed from one person to another and the end result bears little to no resemblance to the original.

In the book world, fiction is further categorized into popular and literary fiction. Popular fiction would include the genres such as romance and science fiction while literary fiction usually refers to the classics such as A Tale of Two Cites and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The difference between the two is popular fiction is geared more towards entertainment while literary fiction tends to focus on social and/or political messages.

Fictional storytelling employs the use of some, if not all, of these elements:

Characters: These are the "actors" in the story. Usually human beings but anything, plant, animal or other can assume the role of a character. Characters are what drive the story from its beginning to its end.

Conflict: These are the challenges that the characters are faced with in the story and must overcome in order to progress.

Climax: This is where the drama of the story peaks. It isn't necessarily the ending of the story.

Dialogue: Inner dialogue is what your characters say to themselves in their minds otherwise known as their thoughts. Outer dialogue is what your characters say to each other.

Plot: A series of events that drive the story to its conclusion.

Subplot: A set of events that drives a minor story element.

Point of view: This refers to the narrative perspective from which the story is being told.

Protagonist: This would be your lead "actor" around which all the story is focused.

Antagonist: This would be another lead "actor" that opposes the protagonist. They either impede the protagonist in their quest to overcome the challenges of the story or are actually the challenge the protagonist needs to overcome.

Resolution: This is where the main plot concludes. It may or may not coincide with the climax, though it usually does, and is also not necessarily the end of the story.

Setting: This is where the story takes place. Setting could be anything from a bedroom to an exotic vacation spot to an entire country.

Theme: This is the focus of the story or what the story is all about.

The most beautiful thing I find about fiction, and storytelling in general, is that it helps us to understand who we are as human beings. With the cultural boundaries falling away as people connect on the internet, a bedtime story told in a tiny village on the other side of the world can enlighten an entire industrialized country. Such is the power of ideas. Experience it yourself by reading a fiction story today.

Daria Black is a freelance writer and web designer. She is also the owner/administrator of the Figmeant Writing Studio and Community http://figmeant.com a website committed to helping writers succeed in the industry. Stop by for a cornucopia of writing advice, writing prompts, job listings and much more that will give you the boost you need to get writing, get published and get paid. To learn more about Daria, visit her personal blog http://dariablack.com

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